Lyndeborough Planning Board holds hearing on airsoft games at Feel Good Farm

  • Lyndeborough Planning Board  Chair Charlie Post listens to feedback on an application from Feel Good Farm to renew its business license for its airsoft field. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Abutter Steve Brooks of Lyndeborough speaks on the noise issue during Thursday’s hearing. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Lyndeborough Planning Board members Bob Rogers and Tom Chrisenton listen to feedback on an application from Feel Good Farm to renew its business license for its airsoft field. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Mike Beebe of Lyndeborough speaks in favor of Feel Good Farm during a hearing Thursday on the business license renewal for the farm’s airsoft field. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/24/2022 10:42:24 AM
Modified: 1/24/2022 10:41:09 AM

There were multiple issues to address when Feel Good Farm appeared before the Lyndeborough Planning Board last week to renew its business license for the airsoft games the farm hosts on the sprawling property at 54 Johnson Corner Road – a license meant to be renewed in 2020.

Among the issues board members discussed with airsoft business manager Tanner Holt and James Lombardi, an attorney representing the business and owner Larry Boisvert, were noise from a public address system and bullhorn as well as pellet “grenades,” the use of old vehicles as props on the field, attendees camping out on the property overnight, impacts to a creek on the property, the inclusion of a retail shop with the business and past noncompliance with Planning Board requirements.

Several of those issues, members of the Planning Board said, had not been included in the original approval of the business.

Airsoft is a military-style game where players participate in mock combat using BBs, usually made of plastic and softer than the lead BBs typically used with a BB gun.

Code Enforcement Officer Leo Trudeau noted the farm has a history of not complying with requirements laid out by the Planning Board, starting with the non-renewal of the business license when it expired two years ago. When the airsoft field was approved in a residential area, it was at first required the business renew that license every year, and then, eventually, every five years. But Trudeau noted the approval had come with other conditions not met, including an annual report to the town and applying for a special permit for things such as overnight events, which Trudeau said had not been met.

“There is a history in the past of broken promises and ignored conditions,” Trudeau said. “What kind of basis is that for trust? Assurances and words...well, talk is cheap, isn’t it?”

Two neighbors, who said they didn’t have any issue with the business overall, or some of the noise associated, such as the pops from the airsoft guns or the team commanders calling out to their players, said the bullhorn and public address system used to start and stop games and grenades used by players had become an issue.

“They went 13 years without either of those,” said neighbor Dave Roemer. “I would say get rid of the audio system, get rid of the bombs and we can all have fun.”

Steve Brooks, another abutter, agreed, saying he would be fine with the business continuing if there were no bullhorn and no explosives.

The board discussed both issues with Holt, who said he would be willing to put a limit on what types of grenades were used. He said the items come with a noise rating, and was willing to reduce the standard for them on the field to no louder than 125 decibels.

“I think 125 decibels is fair,” Holt said.

Holt said the address system is mainly used for emergencies or very large games, and the bullhorn only for short periods to start and stop games, multiple times throughout the day. The board discussed other options, such as walkie-talkies or electronic devices the players could carry with them.

Board members also discussed putting a boundary around the brook on the property to limit the gameplay area. Though Feel Good Farm Airsoft uses biodegradable pellets, the board disliked the idea of them contaminating the brook. The board discussed either a 100- or 125-foot setback from the brook, which Holt said the farm was prepared to comply with.

The airsoft field also hosts several vehicles, including an airplane fuselage, which players can use for cover. Holt said the farm doesn’t plan to add any more, that all fluids are removed from the vehicles and that there is no intention of fixing or selling the vehicles, and that they are specifically used as props in the airsoft game.

The board also questioned a retail store that has begun operating on the property which sells items such as the biodegradable bullets the Boisverts require on the field, and full-coverage safety goggles. Holt said the store was incidental to the business, and wasn’t generally open to the public, only to players attending the games.

Lombardi also denied that allowing players to stay overnight in their vehicles or tents on the property constituted a “campground,” which are not allowed by right in the district. He said the Boisverts do not charge for sleeping overnight, there are no hookups and they consider it a courtesy to out-of-state players, not a separate business.

Planning Board Chair Charlie Post noted any fires, including campfires, should only be lit with a permit from the town.

Although Planning Board members noted several items of concern, they also heard from several people in the large crowd, many of whom were young airsoft players who use the course, or their parents.

Heather Cini of Nashua said her son is a regular player, and praised it as an alternative to video games and as a way for young people to build skills of community, strategy and task completion.Joseph Peterson of New Ipswich, who has been attending airsoft games at Feel Good Farm since 2007, and was once a manager there, noted that Holt and the Boisverts have already taken some steps to alleviate the board’s concerns, including limiting the decibels on grenades used during the games.

“They’re already taking steps to mitigate and be better neighbors,” Peterson said.

Mike Beebe of Lyndeborough said he was impressed by the number of players who had come to the hearing to support Feel Good Farm, saying, “That’s a statement.”

Board members began deliberations Thursday, but ultimately decided to continue the hearing after identifying a list of potential issues they wished to address in conditions for approval. They agreed to draft a list of conditions for review at the next meeting on the issue, which has been scheduled for Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Citizens’ Hall.


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